We’re up to week five of the BBC’s LA comedy of errors, Episodes, and by now its theme tune has begun to do terrifying things to my psyche. The knock-about, parping trombone signature melody has, to borrow an expression from Dinner For Schmucks, laid eggs inside my brain.
Rushing for the train last week, I accidentally dropped my wallet as I struggled to get it out of my coat pocket, spilling its load of loose change on the floor. For some reason, my brain immediately selected the Episodes theme from its playlist to accompany this moment of mild humiliation.
Come to think of it, the flatulent brass of this most uneven of sitcoms has become a default soundtrack, a mocking backwash, to everything ridiculous or embarrassing that occurs in my frenzied little life. Bag strap caught in lift doors? Barrrrupp. A bumbling trip over a cracked paving slab? Toooodle parp. It’s driving me quietly insane.
Worse still, I have to try to come up with different ways of describing Episodes week after week, a sitcom that slides drunkenly, like the boozy tones of a trombone, from mildly amusing to desperately unfunny. One highly amusing spike of inspiration aside, Episodes‘ other instalments have all been broadly the same: uneven. Attempting to review each episode is like reporting the UK weather. It’s dull, with the occasional sunny spell.
At first, Episodes episode five (there’s another problem, incidentally. The sheer number of times the word “episode” can appear in a review of a show called “Episodes”) trundles along at the show’s now well established pace. British writer couple Beverly and Sean’s sitcom is making its slow, seemingly irrevocable descent into mediocrity, and all they can do is stand and stare as their dreams deflate like undercooked Yorkshire puddings.
This week opens with a typically awkward scene in which Sean attempts to avert his eyes from a shapely actress’s barely concealed bosom. Right on cue, wife Beverly wanders in from stage right.
In a more conventional sitcom, this would be the moment where the canned laughter kicks in. But this being a modern, sophisticated take on an ageing format, Episodes replaces a tittering audience with interminable bickering.
Later events are just as signposted. Matt LeBlanc, who’s now slipping comfortably into the villain of the piece, invites both shapely actress and Sean to a charity benefit, and as the wine is imbibed, Sean’s faithfulness to his wife is stretched like a banjo string. Is LeBlanc deliberately trying to destroy Beverly and Sean’s relationship for his own cruel, obscure reasons? Whatever his motives, they fail to make the series any funnier.
Episode five of Episodes appears to be slipping into the same joke-free nadir as episode four, that is, until the narrative mercifully cuts away from Sean’s moment of temptation, and Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) arrives to brighten things up with a gigantic spliff. Her stoned moments with Beverly are the show’s unexpected highpoint, evoking both sympathy and genuine, laugh-out-loud amusement.
And then, just as Episodes lets you warm to it again (a little bit, at least), it concludes with an implausibly daft scene that involves Sean enthusiastically masturbating over Internet porn.